We gave it an A
Andrea Levy’s beautifully wrought novel is a window into 1948 England, specifically the doings in a down-and-out London boardinghouse. When Queenie Bligh’s husband doesn’t return from the front, she begins to rent out rooms in their home for the cash, first to a Jamaican Royal Air Force man, Gilbert, and then to some of his friends, much to the consternation of her neighbors. Then Gilbert’s wife, Hortense, newly arrived from Jamaica, Queenie’s long-lost husband, and a brand-new baby are added to the mix, and this quiet, often painful tale of immigration and discrimination really begins to thrum. Levy demarcates class lines effortlessly — sparing postwar England nothing of its racism — as she weaves a bristling, funny, angry tale of love and sacrifice.